Foreign traders bullish on PH despite election uncertainty

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Foreign businessmen's groups said Monday they were bullish on the Philippines' growth prospects even as there is no clear frontrunner to replace President Benigno Aquino III in May elections.

Representatives of the French, Spanish, British and German chambers of commerce cited growing external trade, a booming business process outsourcing sector, and robust remittances that strengthen the local currency while boosting consumption.

Investors are particularly keen on investing in sorely needed infrastructure as well as in banking, said Chris Nelson, former president of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco who also chairs the British Chamber of Commerce.

"Philippine growth rates are obviously impressive, and we believe, based on our interactions with British businesses, they are eager to come in to help that continue," he said.

The Philippine economy is one of the fastest-growing in Asia, with analysts predicting 6.5 percent growth this year, faster than the 5.8-percent expansion recorded last year.

"German businesses are very excited, the present administration had some very positive reforms which led to economic stability and attractive investment climate," said Charlotte Bandelow, deputy executive director and head of trade promotion at the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Bandelow noted trade volume between Germany and the Philippines reached a record P5.5 billion in 2015.

She however cautioned that a "competent government" was necessary to keep the Philippines on the growth path.

In an interview on ANC's Market Edge with Cathy Yang earlier Monday, Papa Securities Chief Market Analyst Ramon Kabigting said the economy would regain its growth momentum after the elections, regardless who wins.

Surveys showed tough-talking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and first-term Sen. Grace Poe jostling for the lead, with Aquino's preferred successor Mar Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay close behind.

Only Roxas has pledged to continue Aquino's economic policies, which had been credited for turning the country around from Asia's sick man to one of the world's few economic bright spots.

Poe and Binay have pledged to either lower or scrap income taxes, something Aquino and his economic team have opposed during their six-year term to shore up revenues and contain the budget deficit.